Friday's request by the Biden administration to Robert Pitman, U.S. District Judge, was to suspend the law. Pitman stated that Texas had launched an attack on women's constitutional right of abortion. Even if the law was suspended, abortion services in the state with the second most populous population may not be resumed immediately because doctors fear they could face legal action without a more permanent decision.
This worry highlights the strength of Senate Bill 8 which has survived a series of challenges. Pitman, who is based in Austin, was appointed by former President Barack Obama. He presided over Friday's hearing but didn't say when he would rule.
Abortion is prohibited once cardiac activity is detected. This is typically around six weeks before most women realize they are pregnant. Texas has appointed private citizens to enforce the law. If successful, they can claim at least $10,000 damages.
"A state cannot ban abortions after six weeks. Texas knew this but wanted a six week ban. The state then used a unique scheme of vigilante justice to try to scare providers of abortion and other people who might help women exercise constitutional rights. Brian Netter, a Justice Department attorney, told the court.
Abortion providers who tried to block Texas' Texas law have been repeatedly rejected. The Justice Department's lawsuit against the GOP-engineered restrictions is their best opportunity to strike down the GOP-engineered restrictions that were signed into law by Republican Governor. Greg Abbott signed the law in May, and it became effective September 1.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman's Health, stated that some of her 17 doctors are available to resume normal abortion services in the event the law is changed. Some doctors provided information about cardiac activity to patients who were found to be in violation of another restriction, which required a 24-hour waiting period prior to an abortion. This was to ensure that the clinics would be available to call back any patients who had been called back.
Hagstrom Miller stated that it's not about the hundreds of people who have been turned away. "But there are a significant number of people who have said, "Please, let me make whatever I can." "Keep me on the list and call me if I get an injunction."
Hagstrom Miller stated that most of her doctors remain cautious and fear lawsuits if there is no permanent court ruling. Staff at the clinic are also concerned. She said, "Of course we understand that."
Abortion providers claim that their fears have been realizedin the very short time since the law was in place. Planned Parenthood claims that the number of Texas patients at its Texas clinics has decreased by nearly 80% within two weeks of the law's implementation.
Some providers describe Texas clinics as in danger of closing, while neighboring states struggle with an surge in patients that must travel hundreds of miles. Others, they claim, are being forced into carrying pregnancies until the end.
Will Thompson, who defended the law for Texas Attorney General's Office, said that "This isn't some kind of vigilante program." "This scheme uses the lawful, normal process of Texas justice."
If the Justice Department wins, Texas officials will likely request a quick reversal by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals previously permitted the restrictions to be in effect.
Texas's law is not the only one to test abortion rights in America in recent decades. It is part of a larger push by Republicans across the country to impose more restrictions on abortion.
The U.S. Supreme Court will begin a new term on Monday. It will also include arguments in Mississippi's bid for a reversal of 1973's Roe v. Wade decision, which guarantees a woman's right and ability to have an abortion.
The court didn't rule last month on the constitutionality or inability to allow the Texas law to continue in force. Abortion providers saw the 5-4 vote of the court as a warning sign about where it might go on abortion, after its conservative majority was strengthened by three former President Donald Trump appointees.
Planned Parenthood released Friday's report, saying that 26 states would be primed to ban abortion if Roe V. Wade is overturned. Planned Parenthood reports that nearly 600 restrictions on abortion have been introduced in the statehouses this year, with over 90 of these becoming law.
Similar laws have been passed in other states, mostly in South America, that prohibit abortion during the first weeks of pregnancy. All of these laws have been blocked by judges. Texas's version of the law has outrun courts, however, because it allows enforcement to private citizens and not prosecutors. Critics claim this amounts to a bounty.
In court filings this week, Texas officials claimed that even if the law was temporarily suspended, providers still could face litigation for violations that may occur between a permanent and interim ruling.
At least one Texas abortion provider admitted violating the law, and has been sued. But not abortion opponents. In the hope of having the law invalidated, former attorneys in Illinois and Arkansas sued a San Antonio doctor.